Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Practice: Connecting to nature via music

I'm not writing about a new topic.   I write this essay in preparation for two workshops I plan on teaching this winter.  I adapted my course Exploring Music with Ecological Themes into a 2-hour workshop where I feature 5 songs hailing from diverse traditions.  We will explore the Finnish runo-song (sadly a fading tradition), indigenous music (haven't selected the tradition yet), the "wild bird jazz" of David Rothenberg and the sound healing-jazz of the late Marjorie De Muynck.  The exploration reads like a shamanic adventure, but my workshop also focuses on lost healing arts.

Sadly as a planet, we have mostly lost touch with the natural world and the purposes of music.  I feel that disconnected from nature and intentional music leads to dis-ease and destruction of the planet. If we perform ignorantly music with ill intentions then we lead ourselves further into dis-ease.  I cannot stress this enough.I see music used purposefully by advertisers who sell us products and I have seen music used purposefully by sound healers and music therapists with the intention of healing their clients.  I have seen music used purposefully for exercise such as with Zumba and I have seen drum circles use music purposefully.  So we are aware of the innate power of music and sound.

But how can we include music in our lives that allows us to connect with the natural world? Do we observe the natural sounds in our environment in the way that Marjorie De Muynck did with bees, hummingbirds, frogs, and bats? Do we join a pod of whales and play our clarinets along side them similar to David Rothenberg or sing with birds? Do we join indigenous people in communicating to non-humans via chants? These are some of the exciting options that exists at this time.  We can even connect to the waterways of the world through uplifting music, prayers, and chants (Dr. Emoto's work with water).  We can connect through the realm of sound and feel grounded in the process.

Half of my ancestry is Finnish and this lead me to the chants of the Saami people called yoiks.  This DNA connection also lead me to explore Finnish runo-songs and the Kalevala legend.  Now, if you have never heard of a Saami yoik, it's a chant to a person, place, or thing, usually an animal.  The chanter chants to the animal, picks up energy from the animal, and sends energy back through the chant.  I have yoiked in the past, mainly to squirrels and crows. And yes, through yoiking I felt deeply connected to the natural world.  In fact, I felt enchanted as if I entered another realm altogether.

Oddly, I recently read "Cesar's Way" by the dog whisperer Cesar Millan who mentions that dogs in particular pick up energy from us.  He didn't say that dogs pick up emotions, but energy.  Now, music is energy too and dogs respond to slow and simple classical music which provides a calming effect for canines.  But getting back to the yoik, we can now see that the ancient Saami knew about energy exchange with animals via sound waves.

Now if you reside in western Washington and this topic fascinates you, please enroll in my workshop, Exploring Music with Ecological Themes offered on Saturday, February 4, 2012 (10 a.m. to noon), through Whatcom Folk School.

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